Life Isn’t “Ceteris Peribus”

Ceteris Peribus is a Latin phrase that means, “all other things being equal.”Economists often use the term to qualify their analysis. In other words, economic models necessarily assume in many cases that variables will remain constant-sometimes a mathematical mandate when you are studying change in a single variable. Using a qualifier is necessary because there aren’t constants—economic variables are constantly in flux and can change in significant ways unexpectedly.

I’ve noticed that I can get into the habit of viewing my life and business in the context of Ceteris Peribus. To some extent, that type of forecasting is necessary because I can’t predict what’s going to happen and we all have to make the best decisions we can with whatever information we’ve got.

That mindset can become unhealthy, though, when I idealize a life where many variables are constant.

Most often this shows up when I live in the “Land of If.” We all play the “if game” with ourselves:

  • If I could get ahold of my schedule I wouldn’t feel so stressed.
  • If I had just a few more minutes each day I could write more or start that side project.
  • If I could hire someone into this position I could focus on the important things I’ve been neglecting at our company.
  • If we could just hit this goal before the end of the year we’d be set.

Essentially we believe that if we could make any certain variable (or variables) of our life or job constant, we’d be happier, richer, healthier, fill in the blank. We each have desires inside of us that we want to feed—for better or worse.

Interestingly, though, I know from experience that actually controlling variables doesn’t always produce the outcome I’m looking for. Once you get your schedule under control, you focus on the next source of stress. Once you start writing or spending time on your side project, you focus on your inconsistency. I’m excited about my company meeting year-end goals, but new challenges will quickly supersede that once-idolized variable.

The funny part is that facing the great unknown is part of what makes entrepreneurship and growing a company (and parts of life) so exciting, meaning that I often live in a sort of paradox where I both want and don’t want superintendence.

Control is an intoxicating idea, but I’m working hard to not let it control me.

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